January 31, 2011

Not a single store? Really?

I live in a backward State. How can it possibly be that there's not a single source of commercial Sourdough Starter at any store here?

Not the veggie/organic place, not WalMart, not the Commissary, not Safeway . . . mail order it or make your own seem to be my choices. Making your own is tricky, apparently, so it comes down to ordering via Amazon or one of the big baking supply houses.


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January 30, 2011

Sliced bread!

I was a busy bee with the bread machine yesterday. I'd never eaten challah, although I've heard of it for years. I didn't trust myself to braid it properly on the first try, so I just cooked up a loaf.

From Events

Here's what it looks like when sliced:

From Events

It's really light and really really good. I need to make some apple butter to put on it.

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January 29, 2011

Protestations in Egypt, again

I take it as at least somewhat encouraging that the Egyptian military is not stomping heads as the protests continue in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. On the other hand, President Mubarak's appointment of an old friend and current intelligence chief as Vice-President does nothing to indicate he understands that the people on the streets want him gone.

I also find it predictable that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia expressed his concern about events in Egypt by blaming "outside agitators." That's almost Nixonesque; I think I recall Tricky Dick calling anti-war protesters in this country exactly that during one of his Presidential campaigns.

Al-Jazeera English still seems to be the best source for news without "What's it mean for us" handwringing by American cable anchors.

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January 28, 2011


I have no knowledge of the country which qualifies me to say anything factual about it.

Here's al Jazeera's English language live stream.

Update: Here's Egyptian President Mubarak's first response. He orders his government to resign but approves of his police and Army's attempts to restore order.

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January 27, 2011

Still forlorn but also relieved

Dodged a really expensive bullet with the car, but it's still pretty disastrous.

Apparently all Geo Metros have what's called an interference engine. What that means is that "piston and valve paths may 'interfere' with one another as a result of incorrect timing in their movements." If your timing belt wears out or breaks, there's a pretty good chance a piston will collide with a valve inside the engine's combustion chamber and damage it. That would mean a full-on head repair.

My timing belt broke. The shop told me there was probably a broken piston or valve, but it couldn't tell without replacing the belt. I told them to change the belt and test, and I lucked out. There's no discernible damage to any valves or pistons. That means no estimated $1,800 repair job to think about.

The water pump belt was also broken, the valve cover is leaking oil, and the water pump itself is 13 years old. The shop pointed out that if I don't replace the water pump now, when it goes they'll have to pull all the other stuff (at $95/hour) to do so. That made some sense to me, so I agreed to them doing all that. That means the price will be around $700, which is a huge bite but a far cry from $1,800.

Phew, I guess.

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Car still in hospital. Me still housebound. Send food.

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January 26, 2011

Everyone's not an accountant, but. . .

In light of this post at Washington Monthly, where Steve Benen discusses some poll results which show that Americans generally don't want spending cuts.

The problem, of course, is that much of the public tends to approve of spending cuts in the abstract -- and only in the abstract.
Prior to the State of the Union address, a majority of Americans said they favor cutting U.S. foreign aid, but more than 6 in 10 opposed cuts to education, Social Security, and Medicare. Smaller majorities objected to cutting programs for the poor, national defense, homeland security, aid to farmers, and funding for the arts and sciences.


There are some partisan differences, not surprisingly, but Gallup also found that even most self-identified Republican voters also opposed cuts to farmers, domestic security, defense, combating poverty, Medicare, education, and Social Security.

As for foreign aid -- the only area of the budget both Democrats and Republicans are willing to cut -- it's worth emphasizing that most Americans vastly overstate how much we currently spend in this area. Recent research from the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that the public thinks roughly 25% of the budget goes to foreign aid, while the truth is about 1%.

My question is, "Why do Americans think the Federal government gives away 25 percent of the money in the budget, and why do they think it gives it to foreign governments?" I've rarely heard any politician railing against USAID, the agency through which most foreign aid is funneled, so it's not like the public is constantly being lied to, unlike other tropes we keep hearing ("Job-Killing Health Care," "Failed Stimulus," for example).

So where does this misconception come from?

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January 25, 2011

I've got a what?

Off to the docs, who did a thorough workup including a chest x-ray, which told me awful things because I smoke, but also told me I've got a broken back.

Well, technically it's a compression fracture of one of my vertebrae, probably the t12.

No wonder I've had lower back pain for ten years.

Then, on the way home, I'd just gotten off the freeway and was driving up my hill when the car just quit. The accelerator was unresponsive. All I could do was pull off to the side of the road, call my sister for roadside assistance, and wait. Oh, and the cable people were set to arrive sometime between 1:40 - 3:40 pm. The car crisis occurred at 1:15.

What a day.

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January 24, 2011

Good timing, I guess

If you're going to have a get-acquainted visit with a new Primary Care Provider at the VA, you might as well have a cold or a case of the chills when you're preparing for the trip tomorrow.

I'm still trying to remember the events from my most recent visits to Kaiser:

That ought to hold me for a while.

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January 23, 2011

Super Bowl 45 (oops, XLV) set

I thought neither of those games was particularly well-played. Steelers fans in particular must have been biting their nails and on the edges of their seats in that second half.

Now we have two weeks of constant hype and silly stories blown completely out of proportion by the football press and ESPN in particular. This year, like last year, it will be broken up by the Pro Bowl played here in Honolulu next Sunday. That means no players from Pittsburgh or Green Bay will play, since they'll be preparing for the Super Bowl on February 6. I'll let NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell explain why the league's All Star Game is still an excellent showcase for its talent when the players from its two best teams don't participate.

I just hope the Super Bowl is a close game. The average margin of victory in the previous 44 games is two touchdowns: see here.

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Belated football picks

Packers over Bears. Rodgers is playing out of his mind right now.

Steelers over Jets. Roethlisberger is better than Sanchez.

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January 22, 2011

This is January, right?

I was just out and about and got stuck in a long line of cars waiting for traffic lights. The sun was pouring through all our windshields, and everybody including me was mopping sweat off our foreheads.

It's in the high 80s today.

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January 21, 2011

Language shifts

For something as set in its ways as the Catholic Church, the Mass I went to today was different in language from the ones I used to go to every Sunday until I was about 18.

I grant you that when I first learned the Mass as an altar boy it was in Latin, and the shift to English was still down the road a piece. But when it did go to English my memory is it pretty much stuck to the King James version of the Bible when readings were needed. Today we heard the 23rd Psalm. As written in the KJV it reads as follows:

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name' sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

Now, whether you're a believer or not, the language has a beauty to the ear, doesn't it?

Here's the New International version I heard today:

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

I don't know how that reads to you, but it seems almost conversational to me. It jarred.

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January 20, 2011

Hate crime

The Spokane bomb turned out to be even more deadly than initially thought.

"They haven't seen anything like this in this country," the official said. "This was the worst device, and most intentional device, I've ever seen."

The FBI on Wednesday declined to reveal any details about the bomb, which was spotted by three city employees about an hour before the downtown parade was to start, said Frank Harrill, special agent in charge of the Spokane office. The employees looked inside, saw wires and immediately alerted law enforcement, and the parade was rerouted.

Where did the perps get the training to build this thing?

Spokane's not all that far from the Idaho border, and Idaho has had its share of right-wing militia movements over the years. I don't know if those groups have typically taken credit for their terrorist actions; no group has done so in this case. It's disturbing.

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January 19, 2011

Sanity check

Which state sends the looniest representatives to the US House?

I dunno. There are so many candidates it's hard to judge. However, I'd put Texas close to the top, and my principal example would be Louie Gohmert. What's he done now? Well . . .

This week, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) joined the growing chorus of Republicans clamoring for hearings to look into the threat of “creeping Sharia law.”
Gohmert, you may remember, is also writing legislation which would allow Congresspeople to carry guns in DC to protect themselves from the unwashed citizens.

The guy pushing this "Sharia law" nonsense is Frank Gaffney, who's founder of a neocon think tank called The Center for Security Policy. Considering its one-time membership, I think we can figure out its goals. I mean, with Richard Perle, Doug Feith, Monica Crowley and Laura Ingraham in the fold, the security policy the place advocates is almost surely "Blow every foreigner up!"

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January 18, 2011

Investigate this!

Subhead to an unflattering profile of Darrell Issa (Ca-R), the incoming chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Darrell Issa, the congressman about to make life more difficult for President Obama, has had some troubles of his own.

I guess yes. Those troubles include several charges of auto theft, suspected arson, a hostile takeover of the first company he owned after a single late loan payment, and what appears to be resumé polishing.

From the article: In an interview with Rush Limbaugh last year, Issa described Obama as “one of the most corrupt Presidents in modern times.”

I doubt that claim has merit, but if all the facts in Ryan Lizza's column are correct, Issa knows corruption pretty well.

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January 17, 2011

MLK Jr. Day, 2011

Digby has some excellent thoughts about Dr. King and his work here.

Here's my post from 2008, which includes a link to a YouTube video of his anti-Vietnam speech of 1967.

The last word goes to Charlie Pierce on Facebook: "Everytime someone tells me that MLK was not a divisive figure, I feel obligated to reply, 'Then why in the f*** did somebody blow up his house and shoot him in the head?'"

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January 16, 2011

America's demographics

Judging from the amount of Spanish-language spam I'm getting these days, all those people telling us that Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the population are correct.

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January 15, 2011


One of the benefits of being a military kid was that before I was twelve years old I had been on a couple of coast-to-coast drives. When I was seventeen we embarked on the last one, leaving Northern Virginia in June and arriving in Los Angeles in July, stopping in various unheralded places on the way until we got to Jackson Hole in Wyoming and then heading south to Yellowstone National Park.

One of the things I remember is motel marquees. All motels seemed to be on the same strip of highway, and each would try to distinguish itself from its competitors by advertising its in-room amenities. Back in 1968 when we took that last trip color television was still enough of a novelty that the marquees would often proclaim "Color TV" directly under the "Vacancy/No Vacancy" sign. Later, color became commonplace, so I suppose the big selling point became "Clean Rooms" and "Pool." Then cable TV came along, and the motels had a new shiny thing to separate themselves from the other guys. HBO was an early entrant (1972), and it was rare enough that the motels which had it placed those three letters onto their marquees. It wasn't till 1984 when cable was deregulated that multiple cable ventures started distributing content and the motels started subscribing and advertising that as well.

I haven't been on the road on the Mainland (Hawai'i has few if any motels, even if you leave Oahu) since 1993, which was before the Internet was widely available. I would imagine that "Free Internet" and now "Free Wi-FI" are showing up on motel marquees these days. Am I right?

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Too true, too true

Here's an Esquire editorial remembering Oklahoma City, remarking on the Tucson shootings and what has happened on the political right since:

There was a lot of what was called "defensiveness" on the activist Right, but it was nothing of the sort. They were on offense, just the way they have been since they took that heat in 1995. They abide by the order Stalin gave to the Red Army when the Germans invaded in 1942: Ni shagu nazad.

Not a step back.

The activist Right wants this rhetoric for 2012. It wants the same dark energies that helped it win the House last fall. It wants to be able to say the same things with impunity that it's been saying since 2009, as though Tucson never happened. Oklahoma City might as well have happened to the Hittites.

Which is how nothing ever changed. Which is why Oklahoma City wasn't enough.

One-hundred and sixty-eight people.

One-hundred and sixty-eight lonely, empty chairs.

It wasn't enough.

The political culture is not what it was in 1996. It's worse. The wild-assed, Clinton-centric conspiracies — death lists! Vince Foster! Mena airport! — look positively quaint compared to the grand paranoid delusions spouted on television and on radio these days. And the casual mainstreaming of vicious mendacity isn't the property [of] talk radio alone; we have just seen installed a Congress full of thunderous loons. Against all odds — and, arguably, against all decency — what Bill Clinton so carefully criticized has degenerated into a time in which the governors of major states talk glibly about secession, and automatic weapons are casual accessories at political rallies.

Regrettably, I think the Esquire editors are correct. The right wing in this country has never before been so firmly entrenched in mainstream politics in my lifetime. There were always Congressmen who were prone to foolish statements, but they were mostly ignored. Not any more. When an entire party has concluded that science is wrong and the Bible is right, when one of that party's members asserted during his 2004 campaign that there were so many lesbians in schools in his state that only one girl could be allowed to go to the restroom at a time, when Senators from that party argue that the US military is endangered by gay soldiers, when that party argues that a respected source like the CBO is falsifying budget numbers when the numbers don't agree with the party's desires, then the mendacity levels have gotten out of hand.

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January 14, 2011


I admit it. I still use two spaces after a period (two after a colon, too). It's wrong to continue to use a convention meant for monospaced type in this electronic era. It's a habit, dammit, like smoking, albeit less harmful to your health. Miss Mokosh taught me that technique back when I was a junior in high school using Smith-Corona and Royal manual typewriters.

Somehow I managed to kick the habit when I used teletype equipment as a Radioman in the Navy, but when I got out I went right back to my old habits. Mea Culpa. I'll try to do better.

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January 13, 2011

NFL Division Games

I've paid very little attention to the NFL this season, so I demand forgiveness for saying "Atlanta's 13-3? Who plays for them?"

On those Sundays when I've turned to Fox or CBS or NBC I don't recall the Falcons even being on the tube, yet here they are, about to meet the Packers in what looks like a matchup of two very good quarterbacks. Because I've watched parts of some Packers' games, I'll go with: Packers.

The most-hyped game is certainly Jets - Patriots. I'm sorry, but Belichick beats Ryan and Brady beats Sanchez in their respective positions. Patriots.

It's fashionable to diss the Seahawks with their under-.500 record, but I can't see them winning unless Bears' QB Jay Cutler completely implodes (which is not impossible, but). Bears.

The Ravens and Steelers have already played one another twice this year, splitting the season series. Will familiarity breed contempt? Can the Ravens continue to win on the road? Can Roethlisberger keep up his 8-2 record when starting against the Ravens? Pick 'em. I'll take the Steelers on a late field goal.

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January 12, 2011

Tucson Memorial Service

That was a beautiful service from beginning to end. Here's the C-Span video.

That building is a sports arena. I was there when it first opened; they were trying to do summer session registration in one place rather than sending students all over the campus to find the right class and section. It was an awful experience, but that was in 1975. I imagine it's improved since then.

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Blood Libel? Really?

Sarah Palin defended herself today from charges that her gunsights map had prompted Jared Loughner to go on his shooting spree in Tucson. In a video release she said, among other things,

"Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn."

Well. The term blood libel is a highly-charged one. Its historical meaning has been the false charge that "The Jews" murder Christian children and use their blood in rituals. As you might expect, this has caused even more of an uproar than her continued silence about the shootings might have.

The guy that injected the phrase into the current political debate seems to have been Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), in a column he wrote on Monday for the WSJ. I suspect that Palin's speechwriters thought it sounded good and "borrowed" it from there.

I've come to expect very little intelligence from anyone working for La Palin, but I'd have thought a law professor at Tennessee would have known better than to use a phrase which has caused enormous anguish to Jews for the better part of five hundred years.

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January 11, 2011

Little-known facts

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, during a press conference about the Tucson shootings, called Arizona "the Tombstone of the United States."

Some journalists gave the word a lowercase "t," but the sheriff was clearly referring to the infamous silver-mining town 70 miles from Tucson — site of the shootout at the OK Corral.

Ah, but that famous shootout between the Earps and the Clantons was in part due to Tombstone's strict gun laws.
the policymakers of 1880 Tombstone—and many other Western towns—were ardent supporters of gun control. When people now compare things to the "shootout at the OK Corral," they mean vigilante violence by gunfire. But this is exactly what the Tombstone town council had been trying to avoid.

In late 1880, as regional violence ratcheted up, Tombstone strengthened its existing ban on concealed weapons to outlaw the carrying of any deadly weapons within the town limits. The Earps (who were Republicans) and Doc Holliday maintained that they were acting as law officers—not citizen vigilantes—when they shot their opponents. That is to say, they were sworn officers whose jobs included enforcement of Tombstone's gun laws.

Current-day Arizona and the rest of the United States could learn a little from Tombstone's 1881 gun ordinances.
November 1881

Ordinance No. 9:
"To Provide against Carrying of Deadly Weapons" (effective April 19, 1881).

Section 1. "It is hereby declared to be unlawful for any person to carry deadly weapons, concealed or otherwise [except the same be carried openly in sight, and in the hand] within the limits of the City of Tombstone.

Section 2: This prohibition does not extend to persons immediately leaving or entering the city, who, with good faith, and within reasonable time are proceeding to deposit, or take from the place of deposit such deadly weapon.

Section 3: All fire-arms of every description, and bowie knives and dirks, are included within the prohibition of this ordinance."

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January 10, 2011

Tom Delay sentenced to three years in prison

News Item: Former Texas US Representative Delay convicted of conspiracy to launder money

DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority used $190,000 in corporate money in a swap with the Republican National Committee for money raised from individuals to help finance Republican candidates for the Texas House in the 2002 elections.

I think I'll go make some Schadenfreude Pie.

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January 09, 2011

Don't be mean to us; we had nothing to do with it!

In a halfway-sensible country the right wing and its enablers and instigators in the media would be doing a little soul-searching after the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and a dozen others and the deaths of Judge Roll, Christina Green, Gabe Zimmerman, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwin Stoddard and Dorothy Morris.

Instead, you have statements like this from Erick Erickson, a contributor to CNN's John King, USA program and a blogger at Red State:

It should not be, but the media, under the guise of “a full exposition” of the evil in Arizona, is back to subtly and not so subtly pinning the blame for the attempted assassination of the Congresswoman and the related shootings on the tea party movement, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, me, you, and everyone right of center.

Let’s be crystal clear: this is the supposedly objective news media doing this, not the openly, partisan left, though it is fueling the media witch hunt. And from what we now know, it is not just media malpractice, but a lie.

Ironically, by perpetuating the lie — by even treating it as a legitimate topic of consideration to revisit the accusations of violence and hate the media tried to run with prior to the November election — that the right and the tea party incited this evil act, the left and media may very well incite violence against the right.

See how he spins that? "If we're accused of incitement then someone might do violence to us!"

Mr. Erickson and his colleagues seem to have forgotten who the victims are in this case. They are not you, you self-centered loud-mouthed clowns; not you.

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Cleanliness follows tidiness

Into the closet with you, Christmas. Into the washer/dryer with you, holiday tablecloths. And into the shower with me, grubby sweaty mess that I am after dealing with all those things.

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January 08, 2011

Dem Congresswoman shot in Tucson

Given Arizona's poisonous political atmosphere this shouldn't surprise anyone: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot in Tucson.

Apparently she was holding a "Corner Event," a regularly-scheduled meeting in which she goes to local shopping centers to meet her constituents. She's been taken to the University Medical Center in Tucson.

Update: Giffords was shot in the head but survived surgery and is in critical condition. Six others have died, including a Federal Judge.

There are some details and some speculation about the shooter and his motives at the link in my update.

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January 07, 2011

The Conservative Constitution

Prime snark.

We, the Real Americans, in order to form a more God-Fearing Union, establish Justice as we see it, Defeat Health-Care Reform, and Preserve and Protect our Property, our Guns and our Right Not to Pay Taxes, do ordain and establish this Conservative Constitution for the United States of Real America.
It gets better even more principled from there. Go read.

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January 06, 2011


You know about the bird and fish deaths in Arkansas this week, but do you know about all the other recent animal deaths worldwide?

via Cookie Jill at Skippy's place

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Diverging claims

The US House is going to vote on H.R. 2, which they've named "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act"

Yet for two weeks I've seen network news stories asking "Have we got enough doctors to care for all the formerly-uninsured Americans about to gain access to the health care system?"

What jobs does the ACA kill?

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January 05, 2011

Grace in defeat

Al Gore was defeated for the Presidency by the Supreme Court in 2000. He went on to work tirelessly to raise awareness of climate change around the world and was awarded a Nobel Prize for his trouble.

John Kerry returned to the Senate after losing his bid for the Presidency in 2004, became Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and shepherded the New START treaty through the Senate in 2010.

John McCain returned to the Senate after he was defeated in the Presidential election of 2008 by Barack Obama. He became increasingly strident in his opposition to all things Democratic; he voted against the DREAM Act, a bill he'd originally co-sponsored, and he became a strong supporter of his home state's anti-immigrant policy in the form of Arizona SB 1070, despite his previous efforts on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform. He watched silently as the Supreme Court reversed his signature piece of legislation, the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act. He actively and bitterly fought against repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy toward gays in the military in 2010.

Messrs. Gore and Kerry managed to get over the sting of defeat and go on to distinguish themselves in the public policy arena, while Senator McCain has become increasingly angry and bitter. It's an interesting character study.

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January 04, 2011

Listen up, Obama, Axelrod and Plouffe

Sound advice:

The same people who won votes in 2010 by (falsely) accusing Democrats of tampering with Medicare would love to run in 2012 claiming that Obama and his party are the ones who cut Social Security and Medicare.
That's so blindingly obvious that it's hard to believe the political mavens in the Obama Administration need to be reminded of it, but they've been politically tone-deaf for two years.

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January 03, 2011

Investment banker hates Social Security!

Pete Peterson and his henchman David Walker keep shrieking that entitlements will kill us all unless the middle class gives them up. It's instructive to see what he really thought of them as far back as 1994:

To Peterson, the Concord Coalition, "Lead . . . or Leave," and others, Social Security is an expensive scandal. "We will no longer be able to afford a system that equates the last third or more of one's adult life with a publicly subsidized vacation," Peterson wrote in the Atlantic, hyperbolically implying that the average Social Security recipient lives to be 100. "Unfair and unsound . . . Social Security is a generational scam," Jon Cowan and Rob Nelson of "Lead . . . or Leave" wrote last year in the New York Times. "The Concord Coalition believes that reducing [Social Security] payments to people with mid-level and higher incomes is not only fair but also the only realistic way to get control of the deficit."
The fact that Social Security was running a surplus at the time and continued to do so up until this year (due to massive unemployment, people aren't paying into it as had been expected) seems to have eluded those folks. Or else they were lying. You choose.

Via Digby

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January 02, 2011

European demographic disaster in the making

I'm not sure Mama Cass would have been so optimistic had she seen this situation coming. A 29-year-old lawyer who speaks five languages shouldn't have trouble finding work, but in Italy that's the case.
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January 01, 2011

Nothin' changed?

Looks like the same world this morning as it was yesterday, other than paper fireworks residue all over the street.

Charlie Stross points out that if you think in terms of a new decade things are markedly better for a whole lot of people around the world:

  • Between 2000 and 2010, AIDS somehow turned into a non-fatal-if-treated chronic medical condition
  • we're close to exterminating polio and dracunculiasis (aka guinea worm disease) in the wild
  • both China and India underwent annual economic growth averaging around 10% per year throughout the decade
  • The number of people living in poverty and with unsafe water supplies world-wide today is about the same as it was in 1970. Only difference is, there were 3 billion of us back then and today we're nearer to 7 billion
  • Africa averaged around 5% growth throughout the decade
There's more, and he's right. Worldwide there were huge advances for billions of people. Unless you're the Grinch or a complete reactionary, these are good things that happened between 2000 and 2010. Yes, there were bad things as well, but we shouldn't lose sight of the good while dwelling on them.

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